Short, Sweet, and Gory: “La Zombiata”

Presented by WholeTone Opera
Opera by Jillian Flexner
Based on the opera by Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave.
Stage Director: J. Deschene
Music Director: Ian Garvie

February 12 – 14, 2016
Davis Square Theater
Somerville, MA
WholeTone Opera on Facebook

Review by Craig Idlebrook

(Somerville, MA) The few times I’ve been to an opera, I noted that if you took out a lot of the notes people sang, you would end up with a bloody, sexy tale. Being that I’m generally inclined for a bloody, sexy tale over a lot of notes, I daydreamed of a streamlined opera that didn’t take itself so seriously. (Have you gathered I don’t usually like opera?)

My dream came true over Valentine’s Day weekend with La Zombiata, hereafter known in my mind as “an opera that keeps me awake”. Loosely based on La Traviata, it is a simple tale of boy meets ghoul, boy loses ghoul, boy gets ghoul back. If you think that joke is terrible, the analogy doesn’t even work, as most of the characters on stage are ghouls – flesh-rotting zombies, to be exact.

Set in decadent (and decaying) Paris sometime during the turn of the Steampunk-Vampire-Lestat-people-dressing-like-badass-poodles-owned-by-David-Bowie era, the story follows two star-crossed zombies who tire of the madding crowd. While the leader of their group is great at providing brains, he/she (gender labels…pshaw) also is a jerk, so the two lovers stumble away and try to have their own picnic of body parts. When that picnic falls short of brains and the said brain-providing leader shows up, temptation arises. Will true, rotting love prevail? Duh.

The play is a tight hour of stage time, with only 30% too many notes, which is great for opera in my book. Whenever the action slows, the audience is treated to an exploding heart, flying body parts, and belligerent zombies with push brooms. The performers, while sometimes unsure of the pace of the score, seem to be having just as much fun as the audience, and the costumes are just fabulous. The combination makes the whole thing a great way to kill a stupid holiday named after the bloody torture of a random saint. One can only hope that WholeTone Opera reprises this little show next year, so I can take my daughter to get some culture and stuff.



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